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Pest control on a natural hive

 
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I am  considering bees, one other the things that has held me back is the apparent effort it takes to manage varroa and h
ive beetles. How is this done in a "natural" hive that is only visited a few times a year?

Thanks,
Cori
 
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Cori,
The most natural defense against any parasite including the Varroa mites and small hive beetles is to have the bees that can handle these pests on their own.  If you have the strain of bees immune to these pests, this is the only "treatment" you will need.  I never treat my hives against anything - not even using any organic treatments such as essential oils - and my bees are thriving because the only stock I have is the local wild swarm.  This approach is being used on any scale from hobby to commercial (Kirk Webster in Vermont with his 800 beehives has not used ANY treatment for Varroa for 20 years - fully relying on breeding resistant queens - see the book Raising Honeybee Queens) to entire countries even (in Cuba, breeding resistant bee strains is the ONLY form of Varroa mite control allowed by the government, and it works - they have over 160,000 bee colonies on the island and export organic honey to Europe).
I do have Varroa mites and small hive beetles in all my hives, but after years of coexisting with these pests natural has selected for the colonies that could not care less about them (that is, have developed good defenses that make any intervention by you unnecessary).
This is one reason why working with local wild bee stock is the #1 most important thing in natural beekeeping (see more in Keeping Bees with a Smile, if you are considering following the natural beekeeping path successfully.)
 
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In the wild things die alot before old age. And currently bee hives have something like a 50% yearly death rate.
So get TWO hives. Once one die split the other one to repopulate it. Even better get THREE hives, to have even bigger safety cushion.

All that said I have hear, that letting them build their own comb yearly vs the pre-existing plastic foundation that carry pest helps, aka top bar.
I think bees harvest and use some wild medicinal mushroom, the name slips my mind currently.
I have also heard about just visiting their hive just once a year (spring to harvest and add new bee if they died) or maybe twice (end of summer to harvest and spring to check on them)
 
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Leo Sharashkin wrote:I do have Varroa mites and small hive beetles in all my hives, but after years of coexisting with these pests natural has selected for the colonies that could not care less about them (that is, have developed good defenses that make any intervention by you unnecessary).



to add just a little bit to Leo's point, there's also selection of varroa and SHB in an untreated hive. so while the pressure of those pests results in honey bee colonies that can tolerate them, the pressure of honey bees removing pests that cause harm in their hives selects for varroa and SHB that are less harmful.

one simple example of how this might work: if a varroa mite lays only one egg in a brood cell, that infected cell could easily go unnoticed by workers. the mite that grows in that brood cell would then go on to reproduce and also only lay one egg per brood cell. if a varroa mite put six eggs in one brood cell, though, that larva is much more likely to be removed and pitched out the front of the hive. in this way, varroa mites that pose less of a threat are more likely to remain in a hive than those that are more troublesome.
 
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Hi Cori,

I can't claim to be a proper permie, but a pretty simple and organic approach that has worked for me is an extended-release treatment (as opposed to vapor/mist dosing) of oxalic acid.  It's nice because you "can" just do it once a year, and it's organic, if not fully no-treatment.  The foundation-less/frame-less, local swarm approach would be better, but around here (eastern MA) you can't be sure if a caught swarm is really feral, or just from nearby hive.

Here's what I posted on another thread earlier:

I have found that the information here:  

http://scientificbeekeeping.com/    

and especially here:

http://scientificbeekeeping.com/extended-release-oxalic-acid-progress-report-4/

is extremely helpful in creating and applying a very effective organic treatment for varroa mites.

It calls for a a mixture of glycerine and oxalic acid (mine comes from Savogran "wood bleach", available at most hardware stores, and applied using blue shop towels (heavy paper towels, also from the hardware store), and it is research-proven to work, be safe, and from my own experience, pretty easy to apply.  I am a "hands-off" beekeeper, and this program (used for the first time last fall) suits me perfectly.  I've lost several hives over the years, almost certainly to mites, but this winter my hive not only survived, but prospered, to the point where I have 4 hives at this moment, instead of the one I went through winter with!  So, it does seem to work.  (Initial hive was split, and then swarmed anyway, twice.  Happily, the swarms ended up within 20 ft of hive, so I boxed them up, and now have 4 hives.)

I hope that helpful.


Mac

 
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I am not a beekeeper, but I heard that you can do it without any chemicals by keeping a certain temperature for a certain time, see
Thermosolar hive
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZI6lGSq1gU

They also do that here in Europe by a device called "Varroa Controller", basically its some kind of heating box that can keep an exact temperature for a certain time. So from experience we know that this works.

Perhaps something like this might also help?
Beekeeping Reimagined Honeycomb Hives Fold Hives
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHkQOA77EqQ
https://www.honeycombhives.com/pages/about
I dont know for sure if this has any advantages regarding Varroa though.

You might also want to check out my so called "good health tips" at
http://meulengrachtforum.altervista.org/forum/index.php?topic=1041.0
This is for humans though, not bees
 
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I've been keeping bees for over 10 years. /varroa mites are not ideal, but there are a lot of ways to treat for them. It's important to do three things - mite tests monthly to monitor the levels, treat when needed (it's ket to know the time frames for this), and use IPM to keep mite levels low naturally.

Small hive beetle doesn't need to be managed. When a hive is strong and has low mite levels they deal with SHB all on their own. However, a screened bottom with an oil pan below will catch a lot if you don't like seeing them walking around in the hive.

I've found that the guys at beekeepingmadesimple.com do a great job teaching about this so it doesn't sound too complicated. They also are very responsive if you have a direct question for them. It really isn't difficult to deal with mites. Personally, I think gardening is way harder. At least with beekeeping, all you have to really deal with is 1 pest and there are lots of treatments to bring levels down if needed.
 
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